Many years ago I was a teacher at a university college, teaching communication and writing skills for social workers. The first day I walked into that school I was given a ‘buddy’, another teacher that could help me getting used to the new job and school. She, her name was An, was also an art therapist. It sparked my interest, it inspired me without really knowing what the meaning was of my sudden interest. After all, I didn’t consider myself as creative or artsy at that point. I was a teacher and a researcher for local governments involving a lot of statistics. I guess you can see why I didn’t understand the meaning of being inspired by an art therapist? It felt like it came out of nowhere.
I’m bringing up this memory because painting furniture has, lately more than ever, been my own art therapy. According to arttherapyblog.com, Art Therapy is
“a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of making art to improve a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. The creative process involved in expressing one’s self artistically can help people to resolve issues as well as develop and manage their behaviors and feelings, reduce stress, and improve self-esteem and awareness.”
I have been going through a lot of stress and painting furniture has helped me tremendously to let go of the stress. Painting a piece of furniture seems like one simple act, but it’s a process of different steps. It’s art therapy through observing, envisioning, deciding and focusing.
- picking out the perfect piece at the local thrift shop. It’s looking at many different pieces, trying to envision what they would look like in a different colour. It’s feeling a little bit of anxiety when you make the buying decision, driving home with the excited feeling of ‘I can’t wait to start and see how it turns out.’
- choosing the perfect colour for your piece. I let my mind wander off, and I don’t put too much pressure on myself for a quick decision. If it takes time, it takes time, the piece itself will tell me what the right decision is.
- painting the piece. This is a very relaxing step for me because the decisions have been made. I focus and I’m in the moment.
- styling the piece, a step with a lot of observing. I walk around the house to select items, I try things out and I do take my time for this step.
- taking photos of the finished piece. This is a very new step for me, so it isn’t as relaxing as the painting itself. There’s still a lot of insecurity and hesitation.
All those steps help me to let go of stress or negativity. There’s simply no room for that when you have to observe, envision, decide or focus. It literally takes my mind off things.
This week this cabinet caught my attention at the local thrift shop. I painted the outside in Fusion Mineral Paints Ash, it really accentuated the straight clean lines of this piece. Fusion Mineral Paints Seaside was my choice for the inside. I love the contrast between both colours. There are some drawers missing, but it doesn’t bother me, it makes it more interesting. Do you think it used to be in an office? I think so, but I’m not sure.
I’m not the only one who escapes into a favorite creative activity, many of you probably do so! I wrote ‘escape’, but that sounds so negative. It’s therapy not escapism! It has helped me so much that I want to share it with other people and help them too. I’m already implementing creative tools such as collageing into my coaching sessions, and who knows … maybe becoming an art therapist is a new goal for the future.
It’s clear to me now, so many years after my teaching job at the school for social workers. I’m right where I’m supposed to be, on a road where painting furniture, creativity coaching and art therapy are all coming together.